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Maria de Kruijf - “We will be able to improve our projects and have a better view of citizens’ demands”

De Verre Bergen Foundation associate discusses projects being undertaken in Rotterdam

Maria de Kruijf listening to fellow participants at The Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play

Andrea Abellan | 22.03.2017

During discussions at Salzburg Global’s The Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play, participants have debated issues around accessibility, equity, and the need to open up green spaces to everyone. Maria de Kruijf, a participant, and associate at the De Verre Bergen Foundation spoke with Andrea Abellan to discuss how she has previously sought to create stronger communities within a city, and how this may apply to work moving forward.

Nearly half of the population in Rotterdam - the second largest city in the Netherlands - have an immigrant background. More than 170 nationalities live together in this metropolis located alongside Europe’s largest port. Concerns related to multiculturalism emerge frequently. De Kruijf, as an associate for De Verre Bergen Foundation, is one of many looking to address these concerns and create a stronger and more equal place to live.

De Kruijf started her career as a highschool teacher, a job she decided to leave while looking to get involved in projects that “could have a positive impact not only on certain groups of people but on a whole city.”

At De Verre Bergen Foundation, De Kruijf ’s efforts are focused on Rotterdam. De Kruijf says there is a lack of dialogue between the cultures represented in the city. De Kruijf explains, “People who have lived in the Netherlands for years might feel intimidated by recent immigrants. The financial crisis cost many jobs, and there are some groups blaming foreigners for this.”

De Kruijf also has concerns surrounding the rising inequality between population groups in the city. De Verre Bergen Foundation, founded in 2011, seeks to overcome these challenges by supporting diverse social ventures. The organization follows a holistic approach designed to foster real integration. One of its latest projects has provided 200 Syrian families with accommodation, language courses, and bureaucratic support.

De Kruij feels very positive regarding the outcomes achieved at this session. She says her interaction with other participants has made her reflect on the need to “invest time in talking with different social groups to learn what their demands are. In this way, we will be able to improve our projects and have a better view of citizens’ demands what hopefully will help them to feel greater represented by our programs, especially when it comes to a program about their own public spaces.”

The Salzburg Global program The Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play is part of the multi-year Parks for the Planet Forum, a series held in partnership with the IUCN and Huffington Foundation. The session is being supported by Parks Canada and Korea National Park. It is being sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. More information on the session can be found here: - You can follow all the discussions on Twitter by following the hashtag #SGSparks 

Andrea Abellan